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50th District: Rep. Duncan Hunter and Ammar Campa-Najjar

A longtime Republican stronghold, California’s 50th Congressional District became a potential Democratic pickup when Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) was indicted in August on charges of campaign finance violations. The five-term incumbent and his wife have pleaded not guilty. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) still issued a statement that said Hunter would be removed from his committee assignments.

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The 41-year-old Hunter’s woes have created an opening for Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar, a district native and former Obama administration staffer. Despite Republicans’ 14-point voter registration advantage and President Trump’s winning the district by 15 percentage points in 2016, Campa-Najjar, 29, has pulled close to Hunter. A late September poll from the UC Berkeley Institution of Governmental Studies showed Hunter’s lead within the margin of error.

Duncan Hunter
In this Aug. 23, 2018, file photo, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter leaves an arraignment hearing in San Diego, after he and his wife, Margaret, pleaded not-guilty to charges they illegally used his campaign account for personal expenses.
Ammar Campa-Najjar
Democratic congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar speaks Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in San Diego. Campa-Najjar is challenging U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was charged by a federal grand jury on Tuesday with using more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal gain.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), left, and Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar. (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Hunter, whose father held the congressional seat before him, has responded to the tightening race by going negative. He has suggested Campa-Najjar is a “radical Muslim” and claimed he posed a threat to national security because his grandfather was linked with a terrorist attack. Campa-Najjar, who is a Christian and held a government security clearance, has condemned his relative’s actions and pointed out that his grandfather died 16 years before he was born.

Voters in the district are most concerned with immigration, healthcare, gun laws and the economy, according to the poll. Below is an overview of the candidates’ views on the issues. Except where noted, Campa-Najjar’s remarks are from a recorded interview he gave the San Diego Union-Tribune and Hunter’s remarks are from a speech he gave to a Republican women’s group in Ramona in September, recorded by the Times of San Diego.

Immigration

Hunter

  • Supports building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Wants to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the visa lottery system.
  • “Why do people think they deserve to be Americans? Why do you think you deserve to come here? The answer is, you don't."
  • Opposes "sanctuary" laws and said last year he wouldn't request federal funds for states, cities and universities with a policy that would not comply with enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Campa-Najjar

  • Wants to improve and mandate the E-Verify system for confirming employment eligibility.
  • Supports a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.
  • “I’m not for abolishing [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] but we have to reform it. ... There are clear abuses, and there’s just no way of looking around it and it’s because we have a president who has tried to demonize certain communities for his own gain.”
  • Called Trump's travel ban that includes six majority-Muslim nations "immoral and unconstitutional" in an interview with the Hill.
One of several border wall prototypes erected near San Diego in April.
One of several border wall prototypes erected near San Diego in April. (Carolyn Van Houten / Washington Post)

Healthcare

Hunter

Campa-Najjar

  • “I want to do Medicare for all, but ... if we can’t find the right financial structure for it or if we can’t find bipartisanship, what I want to do is go back to what LBJ envisioned for Medicare, which was 50 and older, but the way I want to fund that is if you’re 50 to 64 years old that you could have a buy-in option.”

President Trump

President Trump at the White House on Oct. 8.
President Trump at the White House on Oct. 8. (Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)

Hunter

  • "Trump understands that the only way to fix something that is so broken as our system is to break it totally."
  • “The Justice Department is corrupt, and that should scare you out of your minds. ... You want to talk about election meddling? We’re the ones that election-meddle. Thank God that [Trump] won. Because the economy’s humming.”

Campa-Najjar

  • Has said he doesn't have enough information to determine whether Trump should be impeached.
  • "What do I like about Donald Trump? He speaks his mind. What I don’t like about Donald Trump? He speaks his mind."

Taxes

Hunter

  • Voted for the 2017 tax changes, which included a cap on the deduction for state and local income and property taxes that affected high-income Californians, and for the bill that made the caps permanent.
  • “I support local efforts to repeal the gas tax [increase] instituted by the California Legislature and on the federal level have consistently voted to cut taxes, eliminate overbearing government regulations and streamline policies that hamper business growth and investment."

Campa-Najjar

  • Supports repealing the gas-tax increase: "I think if you want to rebuild our infrastructure, I don’t think you tax the truck driver who makes a living at the pump. ... I think you tax the people who are getting tax subsidies in billions of dollars a year."
  • Has said he doesn't want to tax the middle class or raise the national debt.
  • Among his solutions is the elimination of a tax provision known as the stepped-up basis loophole that allows individuals to pass assets to heirs without paying taxes on the assets' appreciated value.

Gun Laws

Weapons collected in a Los Angeles gun buyback event are showcased at LAPD headquarters in 2012.
Weapons collected in a Los Angeles gun buyback event are showcased at LAPD headquarters in 2012. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Hunter

  • Supported the 2017 House bill that strengthened the background check system by penalizing government agencies that do not report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. (The House has not voted on the measure.)
  • Co-sponsored the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which required states that allowed concealed carry to honor other states' concealed-carry permits. (The measure passed the House and has not been taken up by the Senate.)
  • "I think if you're a former law enforcement officer or military, and you're a schoolteacher, you owe me, as a father, to carry a weapon," he told San Diego TV station KGTV. "You owe it to the parents to be there to protect these children. There's no other way you're going to stop this kind of violence."
  • Opposes raising the minimum age for gun purchases to 21.

Campa-Najjar

  • Supports mandatory universal background checks for all firearm purchases, including online.
  • Supports banning bump stocks and conversion kits and gun sales to people on the no-fly list.
  • Wants to allow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on firearms. "If independent research shows banning certain guns would prevent fatalities and serve the common good, then that’s what we’re going to do."
  • Wants to devote more attention to mental health treatment to prevent school shootings.
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